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Skeletonwitch are something of a curiosity, mostly because of their being an American band playing in a style that could be summed up as half German Teutonic thrash, and the other half Nordic melodic black metal drawing from moderately to overtly raw sources in the early to mid 90s. Perhaps the last band that comes to mind that was nearly as unique from a location standpoint would be that of now defunct 80s extreme thrash outfit Morbid Saint, which also possessed a peculiarly German character to their sound. This is the sort of band that is appealing because of a unique melding of accessibility and extremity, bridging a generation gap between early Bathory and Sodom with that of Gorgoroth and Darkthrone.
Early material associated with this Ohio quintet is pretty difficult to come by, particularly that of their intermediary EP “Worship The Witch”, which largely functions as a preview to their better known and breakout sophomore effort “Beyond The Permafrost”. The majority of the songs on here are to be found on said full length, though here they are much rawer, nastier, and in line with the lower fidelity mixture of venom and rage typical of a few black metal bands in the mid 90s. But the riff work is a bit more percussive, and the overall feel hearkens back to the orthodoxy of “Hell Awaits” and “Persecution Mania”. At times it literally gets difficult to figure out whether this album was put together in 1986, 1996, or 2006.
The real draw of this release is the closing song “Forever In The Abyss”, which is also the only song unique to this offering. Beginning with a very creepy intro that seems to be referring back to the haunting epic intros heard on a couple of songs off of “Darkness Descends”, things gradually work their way to a full paced thrasher, with dual harmonized riffs, melodic solos, and an ugly sepulchral collection of goblin screams and troll barks that conjure up comparisons to Nocturno Culto and Pest. The other 3 songs have similar attributes, but tend to be somewhat older in their influences, almost as if the band threw in a few earlier heavy metal ideas that were also touched upon by a handful of melodeath bands.
This is among the better EP releases I’ve come across by any variety of thrash band in 10 years, but in relation to the rest of Skeletonwitch’s discography, it is the least essential of a purchase, assuming it can be found. Some bands like to put out these shorter versions of an LP as independent releases that can stand completely on their own and not draw from recent releases or preview later ones, but this is not one of them. But for anyone who wants to hear a good release by the illegitimate offspring of Sodom and Gorgoroth, this is one among 4 good albums to look into.